Edith McIntyre #maine #infection #19101919 #illegaldoctor Summary: Edith McIntyre, age 24, died April 1, 1904 at Dr. Charles Eastman's sanitarium in Maine from a botched abortion.
Dr. Charles A Eastman
, 50, ran "a so called sanitarium under his special care in the town of Old Orchard" in Maine.
On the morning of April 1, 1904, a body was hastily shipped from Old Orchard Sanitarium, aka Eastman's Women Sanitarium (pictured), and a death certificate was filed in the town clerk's office by Eastman stating that the deceased was 24-year-old Edith S. McIntyre, a schoolteacher from Boothbay Harbor, Maine. She had died at the sanitarium at 3:00 that morning. The body, Eastman said, had been shipped on the early train of that day to Boothbay Harbor in charge of Edith's brother, Capt. Albert McIntyre. The cause of the death was given as gastritis resulting from the taking of oxalic acid salts by the deceased sometime in February. Edith had been at the sanitarium for two weeks.
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This all seemed a tad fishy, so the case was quickly referred to county attorney George L Emery, who examined the documents then hurried off to Boothbay Harbor to speak with Edith's brother.Emery learned that Edith had been buried early on Saturday, April 2, and that no viewing of the body by family or friends had been permitted. Edith's body was exhumed for an autopsy, which revealed that she had died from a criminal abortion.
Eastman, realizing that the authorities were on to him, fled his sanitarium by the time Emery got back to question him. The sanitarium was deserted except for a single nurse left in charge. A warrant was quickly issued for Eastman's arrest.
Eastman was traced to Lowell, MA, where he was arrested. In the mean time, police investigated his sanitarium.
Eastman was arraigned on a murder charge, to which he plead not guilty. He also claimed indigence, and was assigned council by the court. The trial was set for July 5.
The prosecution presented evidence that Eastman had performed an abortion on Edith some time in March, and that she developed septicemia and died as a result. Eastman's defense argued that Edith had just miscarried and died from a bad gastric reaction to the oxalic acid salts she had been taken. Since oxalic acid is a toxin found naturally occurring in many plants, Eastman seemed to be arguing that Edith had taken the salts as a self-abortion attempt in February, prior to coming to his sanitarium.
John Morrill, who had arrested Eastman, presented letters written by Eastman to his wife while he was a fugitive, along with letters from Edith's brother. Expert testimony was presented by two doctors, Alfred King of Portland and George Gregory of Boothbay Harbor.
On July 12, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.
Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good.
In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.
For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion
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